21 June 2018

Tender young age - how will they grow up; what world will they inherit

Late afternoon Wednesday at this small town, suburban (or exurban) park there were a few cars parked. Playing in the fountains and sprinklers and other sources of clean, chlorinated water were a few small children and their parent(s) or perhaps grandparent(s). Posted under the shade-giving overhanging roof of the public toilets was a young representative of the city occupying this summer job and responsible for locking up, turning off the water, calling the city office in case of injury, liability nightmare, or misuse of the equipment, and so on. From one perspective this kind of facility, its operation, and the habits or expectations of the people who come to use the equipment is not remarkable. It is an example of local government and budgets being administered well, rules being followed, and policies adjusted to fit the changing realities of families and other residents. In other words, these scenes are normal, desirable, and possibly something all citizens around the country should be entitled to; it is not something strange, extravagant, or unrealistic to achieve and maintain.

But after hearing news stories of refugees in camps, in transit, or in distress; or the stories of harsh and sometimes violent lives held up in the news media glare, something like little children amusing themselves outdoors seems like some sort of privilege or wished-for dreamland. Perhaps both perspectives are true, in the eyes of the beholder: this scene is normal and not special, but also this scene is statistically not common or conceivable.

Fast-forward 20 years and these small children will probably have grown up without major trauma or serious disease; many will have completed some form of higher education, some will be on leadership tracks to administer, manage, or direct matters of business, public sector, or professional services. Possibly their cohort from places impoverished, relative to this early childhood example, also will rise to opportunities of leadership or creative expression, but the obstacles are many more, and the role models and mentors are many fewer by comparison. Already from this tender young age the differences in life chances - the doors that seem to be open, the number and kinds of impediments and temptations and risks, and the expectations of self and in the eyes of others - all these things already are very different for one segment of this generation compared to another segment, based on postal code (residential location).

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